The question we get most often about curating and producing three years’ worth of Noho Design Districts isn’t “Can you spare an invite to the VIP party” or even “How can I show my work with you?” but “How on earth do you two do it?” This year was our biggest and best event yet: We had two new hubs (the empty former print lab at 22 Bond Street and The Standard, East Village hotel on Cooper Square); two new international partners (London’s Tom Dixon took over the basement of the Bleecker Street Theater while DMY Berlin hit the American circuit downstairs at 22 Bond); and exhibitions so big that one of them stretched across two different venues (The Future Perfect’s showcase busted the seams of its Great Jones flagship, continuing up the street at 2 Cooper Square). People assume that with two-dozen events and almost as many venues under our purview, we must have a small army of production assistants scurrying around out of sight — we don’t. But while the curatorial vision is ours alone, the Noho Design District is at heart a communal effort, and if one domino fell, the rest might tumble down along with it.
So before we introduce you to the talents who made this year’s NDD such a raging success, we must acknowledge those who helped get us here in the first place: Dave Alhadeff of The Future Perfect, who sat down with us three years ago when the NDD was but a glimmer and offered his full support as both a Noho retailer and a major design influencer; Uhuru’s Maria Cristina Rueda, who’s been responsible for the district’s gorgeous branding and graphic design for three years running; Roll & Hill, who signed on as our biggest exhibitor in year one and returned in 2012 with a monthlong temporary showroom; Areaware, for straddling Noho and the Javits with style for three years straight; Kiel Mead of the American Design Club, who helped curate not one, but two Noho shows even as he was hustling to finish his own Raw + Unfiltered exhibition; The Bowery Hotel for being the perfect venue for our party and the 4th Arts Block for helping us throw it; the team at the Standard, East Village for allowing us free reign of their public spaces; and last but not least, Zella Jones of the Noho-Bowery Stakeholders, who wrangled real estate on our behalf, arranged meetings with neighborhood bigwigs, and encouraged us to think bigger, resulting in a map — available year-round — that brands Noho as an art and design destination beyond just our weekend event.
There are a million more people we ought to thank but the list is too long to go on here, so instead we’ll present you with a slideshow surveying the events of May 18-21, 2012, including all of the folks who made it possible. And if you’d like to get involved in the 2013 event, it’s never too early to let us know.
How could we have possibly known, when we first decided to host an exhibition of California design during our third annual Noho Design District, that we would be blessed with four straight days of glorious, Los Angeles–style sunshine? (Followed, of course, by a day of downpours, but more on that tomorrow.) Springtime in New York is a fickle beast, and when we first began to plan how best to use the gorgeous second-floor terrace space we’d been given at the new Standard, East Village hotel, we said a prayer for mild climes but also engaged in fretful what-ifs with our hotel ambassadors, talking of contingencies like awnings, tarps, and the possibility of moving everything — save for a nearly 50 square foot teak and rubber fort constructed on-site by Matt Gagnon — inside.
Even non-New Yorkers know Soho, the swath of land below Houston Street in Manhattan, colonized by artists in the '60s and now the domain of the rich and the retail-obsessed. Noho, on the other hand, still flirts with obscurity, despite having been home to some of the city's most legendary artists — Robert Mapplethorpe, Frank Stella, and Chuck Close, to name a few — as well as its first Herzog and de Meuron building. Sure, as an emerging neighborhood with several hotels on the rise, its streets are often crisscrossed with ungainly spiderwebs of scaffolding, but beneath that lies a creative energy so strong we at Sight Unseen figured it would be the perfect place to create a new satellite destination during New York design week: the Noho Design District. All of the elements were already there.
When the Sight Unseen and Uhuru teams rolled up the grate and entered the Great Jones Lumber building on Monday, May 9, it was like déjà vu all over again — one full year after we'd closed the door on the inaugural Noho Design District, the space's vast rooms were as dark, empty, and beautifully raw as when we first laid eyes on them, but with half-disassembled wooden signs, wayward Macallan cups, and other stray remains of the 2010 festivities still intact. The weight of all the work that lay ahead immediately hit us: four long days of manual labor in order to breathe life back into the building, to transform it from its dormant state into the hub of the 2011 Noho event, where the work of more than 100 designers would be on display for four days.